Riverbend Nature Center
Posted Sun, February 13, 2011 - 7:29 PM
It's the location of our second winter meet of the year. Like our first one at Afton State Park, it was set as a 90-minute Score-O. Justin and Molly set 21 controls scattered around the nature center, in a bend of the Straight River (ha ha) on the southeast edge of Faribault.
Course description behind the jump, as usual.
We started at 12 sharp with the usual chaos. They gave us three minutes to study the map ahead of time, and I had chosen to take a counterclockwise course along the river, and cross the bridge to the south side early in the course rather than late. I was originally thinking that I might be able to get them all with a clean run, but there were too many variables to be sure, the biggest one being the snow depth and conditions. In any case, it wasn't clearly impossible to sweep the course.
I wanted to head to 219 first, but Ian convinced me to turn down the wrong trail at first and we ran towards the southern large building together. Of course, I quickly realized the stoopid and headed west to pick up the control as planned. It had the advantage of separating me from any other runners, and in fact I was running alone for the next hour - a considerable difference from the Afton event.
I backtracked to 220 on the spur, and then took my first off trail jaunt to get down to the river trail. Yep, the snow was deep - well over my knees in some places, but it wasn't completely soft, even on deer trails. So I know I'd have to do more trail running when possible, and use deer or elephant trails the rest of the time. Breaking trail in a winter-O is not a good strategy.
I came out a little north of 217, then ran around to 218 and 221. I waffled at the intersection west of 221, thinking whether it was worth going to get 223 before heading south across the tracks to 222. I decided against it, and slogged my way through virgin snow that was thigh-deep in places. At this point I was pretty annoyed, but there wasn't anything else for it. After punching 222, I faced the decision of going west or southwest, risking the stream, or north back across the tracks to the trail (the tracks themselves were off limits.) There was a single lonely set of (human) tracks heading due west from the control, so I figured that was at least some kind of trail. It was slow, but not bad. I (and the mysterious stranger before me) zigzagged through a couple of deer trails and then headed out along amn absolutely level, smooth expanse of undisturbed snow towards the river. Smack in the middle of this field, the stranger had stopped and written out "MoBiz" in the snow in 2-foot high letters. I learned later that Tom went right by the same area, but we were the only two to see the secret message.
The stream turned out to be open, but so narrow and shallow I could step across it. Shortly after I came out on the snowmobile trail and jogged down to the bridge, picking up 205 on the way across.
Now I had the decision of taking the southern controls clockwise or counterclockwise. Since I was committed to getting them all, I went for the more difficult placements first (at the end, it turned out many people skipped 203.) There was a convenient snowshoe trail up the ridge to the top, and I used the bench as the attack point to pick up 204. The trail up top was used a lot less than the trails nearer the visitor center, so it was really just a single-track snowshoe trail. I kept slipping left and right off the packed area into deeper snow, which was a great way to mess up my stride. 203 wasn't hard to find, just hard to get to with quite a bit of deep snow. Luckily, I found a deer trail going south out of it and managed to get onto the east-west berm trail in good time. The flat, packed trail on this apparent former grade gave me a good opportunity to make up time and catch my breath, although I stumbled a bit going into 201 - and then a lot going into 202. I stayed too high and overshot the control, which wasn't visible unless you were right in the creek valley. I ended up circling back to the north side of the creek before spotting it - but my annoyance was mitigated by the fact that a lost JROTCer had glommed onto me, and he ended up doing the same circituous route. But after this, it was a quick run back across the bridge.
I passed a number of people heading north towards the railroad tracks, and could see the gate up ahead that marked a back entrance to the umm... "correctional" facility. I turned off before arriving there, and picked up a good elephant trail that led me to 210. I had to slog out to the trail on the other side of the tracks, though, but came out 10 meters from the three-way intersection and trotted up the hill until I spotted the open area. There was another excellent elephant trail here, and because of the downhill slope, I was able to literally bound down to 209 hanging on a large downed tree. At this point I knew I just needed to keep following the tracks that others had blazed for me, and cut SSE through the light green area to get to 223. At this point, I was sitting at 25 minutes left, and done with most of the difficult off trail stuff.
Then it was out to road for 211 (22 minutes left), around the trails to 215 (20 minutes), up the trail and across the field to 214 (16 minutes), across the field and up the hill to 213 (12 minutes), around the trail to 206 (10 minutes), cut down to the lower trail atop the cliff, straight into 216 (6 minutes), and then a good jog back to the finish. 3 minutes left, and some satisfying time management.
The only one I skipped was 212, at the park entrance, and it was a good choice. Andrei was able to clear all the controls, and Tom took almost exactly the same route that I did, but was consistently about 3 minutes ahead of me, a time which held up at the end. I ended up with a strong third and made sure to stay ahead of the prez. (It would be quite embarrassing to lose to him at this point in my career!) Todd took 5th, and Molly Cochran (our MIX '09 teammate) showed her continuing mastery of navigation with 6th place and the first place female finish.